Posted on October 19, 2012 by Gillian
Redice Creations | October 17 2012 | MSNBC News
A huge geoglyph in the shape of an elk or deer discovered in
Russia may predate Peru’s famous Nazca Lines by thousands of years.
The animal-shaped stone structure, located near Lake Zjuratkul in the
Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan, has an elongated muzzle, four legs
and two antlers. A historical Google Earth satellite image from 2007
shows what may be a tail, but this is less clear in more recent imagery.
Excluding the possible tail, the animal stretches for about 900 feet
(275 meters) at its farthest points (northwest to southeast), the
researchers estimate, equivalent to two American football fields. The
figure faces north and would have been visible from a nearby ridge.
The figure would initially have looked white and slightly shiny
against the green grass background,” write Stanislav Grigoriev, of the
Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of History & Archaeology, and
Nikolai Menshenin, of the State Centre for Monument Protection, in an
article first detailing the discovery published last spring in the
journal Antiquity. They note that it is now covered by a layer of soil.
Fieldwork carried out this past summer has shed more light on the
glyph’s composition and date, suggesting it may be the product of a
“megalithic culture,” researchers say. They note that hundreds of
megalithic sites have been discovered in the Urals, with the most
elaborate structures located on a freshwater island about 35 miles (60
km) northeast of the geoglyph.
Discovery & excavation
A man named Alexander Shestakov first discovered the glyphs using
satellite images. He alerted researchers, who sent out a hydroplane and
paraglider to survey the giant structure.
This has since progressed to an
on-the-ground excavation by a team led by Grigoriev. They’ve found that
the stone architecture of the geoglyph is quite elaborate. When they
excavated part of a hind leg the largest stones were on the edges, the
smaller ones inside. This past summer they also found the remains of
passageways and what appear to be small walls on the hoof and muzzle of
“The hoof is made of small crushed stones and clay. It seems to me
there were very low walls and narrow passages among them. The same
situation in the area of a muzzle: crushed stones and clay, four small
broad walls and three passages,” Grigoriev wrote in an email to
LiveScience. He cautioned that his team didn’t excavate all the way down
to the bottom of the walls, not wishing to damage the geoglyph.
Dating the geoglyph
Among the finds from the excavations are about 40 stone tools, made
of quartzite, found on the structure’s surface. Most of them are
pickaxe-like tools called mattocks, useful for digging and chopping.
“Perhaps they were used to extract clay,” he writes in the email.
The style of stone-working called lithic chipping used on one
artifact dates it to the Neolithic and Eneolithic (sixth to third
millennia B.C.), though Grigoriev says the technology is more typical of
the Eneolithic, between the fourth and third millennia B.C.
If that date is correct, it would make the geoglyph far older than
Peru’s Nazca Lines, the very earliest of which were created around 500
B.C. Grigoriev added that current studies of ancient pollen at the site
will help to narrow down the age.
In the Antiquity journal article, Grigoriev and Menshenin point out
that palaeozoological studies show that the landscape in the southern
Urals supported fewer trees in the Eneolithic, with forest growth not
appearing until about 2,500 years ago. “This means that there were open
landscapes in the Eneolithic and Bronze Age, which allowed the hill
figure to be created,” they write.
A megalithic culture
Researchers say this geoglyph may have been built by a “megalithic
culture” in the region that created stone monuments in prehistoric
“[M]any megalithic sites with features in common with European
megaliths have been located: Some 300 are known but have not yet been
studied in detail,” write Grigoriev and Menshenin in the Antiquity
article. Among these megaliths are numerous “menhirs,” large upright
The most spectacular megalithic complexes are on the relatively small
Vera Island, located on Turgoyak Lake, about 35 miles (60 km) northeast
of the geoglyph.
Read the full article at: msnbc.msn.com
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